Eastern Africa News Network

Will Arusha’s Helicopter building project ever going to take off?

The ambitious project of manufacturing Tanzania’s first helicopter right from scratch is still on in Arusha though, according to the people behind the initiative, the work was slightly delayed due to some (reportedly), unavoidable circumstances.

Built at the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Arusha Technical College (ATC), the maiden Tanzanian made chopper is advancing steadily, albeit slowly as the people behind the project said to be busy with other innovative projects at the equally busy, state-owned technical institution as well.

The Principal Public Relations officer at ATC, Gasto John Leseiyo, explained to the Tanzania Times recently that the helicopter was among the various innovative projects being undertaken at the Technical College and the engineers behind it also happen to be trainers at the institution thus have limited time to work on the project but the chopper making initiative was progressing.

One of the Engineers behind the project is the ATC Bursar, Adisai Msongole, who has just come up with yet another technological gadget, a pocket-sized illumination detector which can switch lights on and off, depending with time of the day.

“When it gets dark, this gadget will sense the atmosphere and automatically switch on the lights at any house, building or large institution; then when the sun comes on early in the morning the device will switch off the lights to save power, labor and costs,” he explained.

Engineer Msongole and fellow trainer at the ATC, Egineer Abdi Mjema are the two creators behind the Helicopter project in Arusha.

The chopper was intended to take onto the sky three years ago, but according to Leseiyo, the engineers behind the project are also trainers at the college who are always busy with teaching responsibilities therefore find themselves with very little time to nurse the ambitious endeavor.

The idea was to devise a helicopter built from scratch in Arusha using locally sourced materials was concocted back in 2017 by the aforementioned engineers at the Arusha Technical College; Engineer Msongole, and Engineer Mjema.

“We had initially intended the helicopter with two-seating capacity to be used for Surveillance, Rescue Missions and Agricultural, but as the project takes shape we may increase the airframes to carry more people for serious transportation,” they explained during the project start-up.

At the moment the Helicopter ‘Made by ATC in Arusha,’ should be more than 70 percent complete and features the popular gasoline powered VW flat engine on board, manufactured by Volkswagen in Germany. It is the same engine used to power the Robinson Helicopters in the United States.

The ATC chopper is designed with a non-pressurized cabin, it started with a projected flying ceiling of 400 feet for starters, but as of now the concept aircraft can attain higher heights after it was fitted with a larger engine to give it more elevation and mileage.

 Most commercial choppers can fly up to 8,000 feet above sea level.

How many choppers can they manufacture in a year once the project gets a nod from higher authorities? “Depends with the demand, but with serious work we can roll out up to 20 such helicopters in a year,” boasted the engineer.

The Arusha Technical College is listed among the institutions in the Eastern Africa skills for transformation and regional integration programme, which is being implemented in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia, aiming to develop specialized technical skills in priority sectors, including transport, energy, agricultural processing, manufacturing and information and communications technology. Tanzania plans to open 42 technical training centers in other areas throughout the country.

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